Today in History: October 12

President Ronald Reagan bids farewell to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev after the third session of talks at the Hofdi in Reykjavik, Oct. 12, 1986. (AP Photo/Bob Daugherty)
President Ronald Reagan bids farewell to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev after the third session of talks at the Hofdi in Reykjavik, Oct. 12, 1986. (AP Photo/Bob Daugherty)

Today in History

Today is Wednesday, Oct. 12, the 286th day of 2016. There are 80 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:

On Oct. 12, 1492 (according to the Old Style calendar), Christopher Columbus arrived with his expedition in the present-day Bahamas.

On this date:

In 1810, the German festival Oktoberfest was first held in Munich to celebrate the wedding of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen.

In 1870, General Robert E. Lee died in Lexington, Virginia, at age 63.

In 1915, English nurse Edith Cavell was executed by a German firing squad for helping Allied soldiers escape from occupied Belgium during World War I. Former President Theodore Roosevelt, speaking to the Knights of Columbus in New York, criticized native-born Americans who identified themselves by dual nationalities, saying that “a hyphenated American is not an American at all.”

In 1933, bank robber John Dillinger escaped from a jail in Allen County, Ohio, with the help of his gang, who killed the sheriff, Jess Sarber.

In 1942, during World War II, American naval forces defeated the Japanese in the Battle of Cape Esperance. Attorney General Francis Biddle announced during a Columbus Day celebration at Carnegie Hall in New York that Italian nationals in the United States would no longer be considered enemy aliens.

In 1964, the Soviet Union launched a Voskhod space capsule with a three-man crew on the first mission involving more than one crew member (the flight lasted just over 24 hours).

In 1976, it was announced in China that Hua Guofeng had been named to succeed the late Mao Zedong as chairman of the Communist Party; it was also announced that Mao’s widow and three others, known as the “Gang of Four,” had been arrested.

In 1984, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher escaped an attempt on her life when an Irish Republican Army bomb exploded at a hotel in Brighton, England, killing five people.

In 1986, the superpower meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland, ended in stalemate, with President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev unable to agree on arms control or a date for a full-fledged summit in the United States.

In 1997, singer John Denver was killed in the crash of his privately built aircraft in Monterey Bay, California; he was 53.

In 2000, 17 sailors were killed in a suicide bomb attack on the destroyer USS Cole in Yemen.

In 2002, bombs blamed on al-Qaida-linked militants destroyed a nightclub on the Indonesian island of Bali, killing 202 people, including 88 Australians and seven Americans. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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